Why do people decide to come to psychotherapy?

People come to therapy for many reasons. Some come to therapy in response to unexpected changes in their lives, perhaps a divorce, break-up, life transition, a miscarriage, concerns with raising a child, a medical diagnosis, or loss. Some might decide to come to psychotherapy due to long standing feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, eating issues, addiction, or confusion in certain areas of their life. Others seek counseling to gain self-exploration, self-awareness and personal growth. People often come to therapy when something in their lives is not working, or something in their lives just doesn’t feel right, at times when their relationship(s) is not satisfying them. They might be feeling overwhelmed by a life situation, very sad, frustrated, anxious, angry, guilty, doubt, loneliness, or find themselves doing something that is not working for them and they can not see an alternative.

Therapy is a collaborative process. It is a therapist’s job to help you access the best choices and conclusions that are within you. The right questions will help create a shift in you. Therapy provides support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping for issues such as depression, anxiety, lack of confidence, relationship troubles, childhood issues, bereavement, spiritual conflicts, stress management, body image issues, creative blocks, and difficult life situations. People seeking psychotherapy are often wanting a safe place to talk, gain insight, work towards self-change and create greater awareness in their lives.

Why does Psychotherapy Work?

A study was conducted at the University of California Los Angeles that demonstrated that it is the relationship you have with your therapist, when at its best (built on coherence, attunement, trust, empathy, and acceptance) that develops new brain maps. Flexibility, adaptability, coherence, and stability are experienced internally and externally as a result of coming to therapy consistently and feeling a connection with your therapist. New skill sets and new ways of perceiving and receiving information as well as having someone to listen is helpful. There is no trick involved, and no gut wrenching experience is necessary in sessions. All forms of psychotherapy have been shown to be equally effective. Thus, the relationship between client and therapist is most vital to the success of psychotherapy.

What does someone do in psychotherapy?

Every therapy session is unique and caters to each individual, couple, family, or organization and their specific goals or needs. Usually a client will contact a therapist they are interested in working with via the phone or internet to schedule their initial session. Talking a bit about why you or your loved one is wanting to come to therapy is common while scheduling an initial appointment. It is common to let your therapist know what you want to gain by from coming to therapy, how long you imagine coming to therapy, and what led you to make the decision to come to therapy. Many clients like to come to therapy the same time once per week, others are wanting to do more in depth work and prefer to come to sessions two to three times per week. Some enjoy mixing “in office” sessions with “telemental health” sessions in order to increase consistency. Sessions are normally 45 to 50 minutes long. What we do in session depends somewhat on the age of the person attending sessions and the type of psychotherapy you are attending (individual therapy, couple’s counseling, child therapy, group therapy). For example those attending couple’s counseling often decide to extend their sessions to 90 minutes giving them more time in each session to dialogue and resolve issues. If you or a loved one is an adult, young adult, or teenager we will usually have conversations in sessions. If you would like, sessions might also include other work that entails drawing (you need not be an artist or have any artist skills), talking about dreams, “mindfulness therapy”, “somatic work” or work to help with body memory. Therapy can be short term, focusing on specific issues; or longer term addressing more complex issues or ongoing personal growth. A more directed and goal-specific approach can be established if desired. There are many different techniques of psychotherapy that we can incorporate in our work together to help you to reach your goals in coming to therapy. We follow your lead, what feels comfortable to you, and all work is done at your pace. You and I are both active participants during sessions. You might notice that some of what you do in session will also be what we call "processed" in thoughts, growth, and even posture between sessions.

What Benefits Can I Expect From Going to Psychotherapy or Counseling?

Therapy can provide you a safe place to talk about your experiences, thoughts, opinions, and feelings; giving you a place to gain insight and change. You will have the opportunity to gain a new perspective, create solutions for the issues that have brought you to therapy, and to also experience a shift in just your being-ness. It is hard to describe the shift that occurs from attending counseling or psychotherapy. Kind of like, if right now I ask you to hold your hands together and you notice that you usually put one hand on top the other regularly when you do this. Then you decide you are going to change and put the other hand on top from now on. At first you might need to remind yourself, and it might feel awkward. After a while it will feel normal, comfortable, and you find that it is automatic. Coming to therapy also enhances personal development, improves personal relationships and eases family dynamics as well as helping in learning to set “loving” boundaries. When boundaries are set, anger, frustration, and negativity are far less an issue in a person's life. These are a few of the positives gained by working with a psychotherapist. Overall, people who have attended psychotherapy tend to have lower levels of anxiety and stress, decreased conflict, and an improved quality of life.

Here is a list of some of the benefits available from psychotherapy:

  • Increased ability to be flexible with life’s daily challenges.
  • Increased confidence, vitality, peace, and well-being.
  • Peace and resolution concerning the issues or concerns that led you to seek counseling.
  • Increased understanding and acceptance of yourself, your goals, and values.
  • Increased understanding and acceptance of loved ones, greater compassion.
  • Deepened satisfaction and connection in relationships, with oneself and a greater ability to express yourself.
  • Ease and success in parenting.
  • Increased work satisfaction.
  • Behaviors and behavior patterns that are not working, identified and shifted to what does work.
  • Elevation of depressed mood, calming of anxiety, anger management, less defensiveness.
  • Navigating life’s obstacles with greater resilience, resolving problems in a positive creative fashion in keeping with one’s life design.
  • Improved listening and communication skills.
  • Improved attitude towards life.
  • In Couple’s Work increasing friendship, trust and intimacy.

How Long Does Therapy Take?

This depends. Unlike other health conditions there is not just one procedure designed to fix a certain condition or problem. Psychotherapy is a collaborative process between you and your therapist. The initial consultation process can take from one session to three sessions. Within this process you usually will know if the therapist you are working with feels like the right fit for you. Over the next couple of months, a good question to ask is, “Am I moving in the right direction?” rather than, “Am I fixed?” Trite but true, “Psychotherapy is a journey, rather than a destination.” Often you will feel as if a shift has taken place within you. You (or your loved one) will feel different and behave differently, in a positive way. You will know, usually, when you want to take a break from therapy or feel like you are finished with the work that brought you to therapy.

How do I know if I Will Really Benefit From Psychotherapy or If I Really Need Psychotherapy?

Everyone goes through obstacles and challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through difficulties there is nothing wrong with seeking out extra support and someone to help with new ideas when needed. In fact, to realize there is a resource and to access outside professional help takes a person who has insight, self-awareness, and courage. This is to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting what you want to do better, and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking out the help of a therapist. Therapy provides lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools to make the changes you are wanting, and overcome the challenges you are facing. If you are wavering as to whether this is truly necessary or beneficial to you or a loved one, would it help you or your loved one to see a therapist for a few sessions and then determine if the time was helpful and worthwhile for you or your loved one? Sessions or appointments are usually set with you and your therapist a week at a time. You or your loved one are not locked into anything.

How About Medication? Is Medication Ok As A Substitute for Therapy?

It is documented and supported by the literature that long-term solutions for emotional duress and mental problems cannot be solved solely through the use of medication. Psychotherapy is unique because it addresses the underlying causes of your pain and behavior patterns as opposed to symptom management which is a limitation of medication. That is why so many people have tried an arsenal of anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications without permanent relief of their symptoms. Medication can be a helpful adjunct, however, long term benefit is questionable and therefore psychotherapy is the treatment of choice for lasting change. If we agree that medication is an option for consideration in conjunction with therapy, I will refer you to a qualified physician for a medication consultation utilizing an integrative approach that capitalizes on the best of both.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is psychotherapy for an individual person attending sessions with a psychotherapist. The age of the person attending therapy may vary. The person attending therapy will have their own unique reasons for wanting to come to therapy. In individual therapy the focus is on the individual person, their goals, and issues, and what the individual desires to obtain from their time and efforts in attending psychotherapy.

It is smart for a therapist to be sensitive to a person's gender, gender orientation, culture, chronological age, life transitions, spiritual roots, history, and present circumstances when coming for therapy.

Couples Therapy

Lost the Spark? Feeling like your relationship needs a Tune-Up? Adjusting to parenthood? His/Her’s/Our’s Blending Families? Has there Been a Breach of Trust / Infidelity? Does One Partner Want to Break-Up? Feel Love but not In-Love? Considering Leaving the Relationship? Are you having Communication Problems? Do you want to Understand Your Partner and Have Your Partner Understand You? Are there disagreements About Parenting Issues? Is Your Partner In Love with Someone Else? Have you Lost Hope with Marriage Counseling? Do you find that you are Arguing Over Money, Not getting the Intimacy that you want? Are There Health Issues That You as a Couple are Dealing With?

It is never too late to have the relationship you want. When love relationships run into trouble many couples wonder: Do we really belong together? Take heart! What’s usually missing are knowledge and skills not gained in every day life. Learn from other couples who have helped with research done by some of the most effective psycho-neuroscientists in the world.

Couples therapy is a safe place to explore what you are feeling/thinking in your relationship and to have the opportunity to express what you want. Together we will use a mixture of theoretical approaches to go deeper to understand your relationship dynamics and help you activate the relationship that you desire. Your relationship is serious business but at the same time we will incorporate a sense of curiosity, fun, and do-able techniques to help you have the relationship that both of you want.

Pre-Marital Therapy

Dress? Cake? Flowers? Skills to Make Love Last? Start early. Get your relationship off to a healthy start and keep it healthy. The average couple waits six years before getting help for marital problems (keep in mind, half of the marriages that end do so in the first seven years of their union). This means that the average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long. Learning the skills of people who have had highly successful marriages will improve your ability to communicate through conflict, deepen your intimacy, and your connection with your partner. Pre-marital therapy is a way of widening the panoramic view of your relationship. What an opportunity to start off your life together with a wide angle lens of all the beauty that is to be appreciated!

Therapy for Young Adults

In our fast paced, technology information based world of today it is exciting to watch young adults transition into who they want to be, fulfilling their goals and dreams professionally and personally. Being a therapist who works much with young adults therapy can include:

  • Verbalizing what the problems are.
  • Understanding what you want for yourself and how to get there, both short term and long term.
  • Distinguishing your values, who you are, separate from your friends and family.
  • Enhance friendships.
  • Improve family connections.
  • Clarify career interests.
  • Find your way to successful love relationships.
  • Work on issues surrounding sexuality, or sexual identity.

The valuable insights and tools gained from being in therapy can benefit you for the rest of your adult life.

Getting therapy as a young adult can change the course of your life for the better.

Psychotherapy with Teens and Pre-Teen

When teens go through a rough time, such as problems at school, difficulties with friends, a break-up, trouble at home, research has shown that they feel more supported if they talk with someone who is an objective listener, a therapist. They may be feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed by what’s been happening and need help sorting out their feelings, finding and creating solutions to their problems, and learning coping mechanisms. Having someone to talk with will often help them to feeling better.

Just a few examples of situations when therapy can help:

  • Feels sad, depressed, worried, shy, or just stressed out
  • Is dieting or overeating for too long or it becomes a problem
  • Cuts, burns, or self-injures
  • Is dealing with an attention problem (ADHD) or a learning problem
  • Is coping with a chronic illness (such as diabetes or asthma) or a new diagnosis of a serious problem such as HIV, cancer, or a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Is dealing with family changes such as separation and/or divorce, or family problems such as alcoholism or addiction
  • Is trying to cope with a traumatic event, death of a loved one, or worry over world events
  • Has a habit he or she would like to get rid of, such as nail biting, hair pulling, smoking, or spending too much money, or getting hooked on medications, drugs, or pills
  • Wants to sort out problems like managing anger or coping with peer pressure
  • Wants to build self-confidence or figure out ways to make more friends
  • Gender identity issues
  • Is dealing with issues of bullying
  • Is isolating or running away
  • Has difficulty following the rules or keeping up with parental or school expectations
  • Break-up or relationship problems
  • Tends to be very sensitive or reactive with family or in social situations

In short, therapy offers people support when they are going through difficult times.

Deciding to seek help for something you're going through can be really hard. It may be your idea to go to therapy or it might not. Sometimes parents or teachers bring up the idea first because they notice that someone they care about is dealing with a difficult situation, is losing weight, or seems unusually sad, worried, angry, upset, or academic performance has changed. Some people in this situation might welcome the idea or even feel relieved. Others might feel criticized or embarrassed and unsure if they'll benefit from talking to someone.

Sometimes people are told by teachers, parents, or the courts that they have to go see a therapist because they have been behaving in ways that are unacceptable, illegal, self-destructive, or dangerous. When therapy is someone else's idea, a person may at first feel like resisting the whole idea. But learning a bit more about what therapy involves and what to expect can help make it seem OK.

What is Child Therapy?

Child therapy involves play therapy and expressive art therapy. Children disclose their feelings and thoughts through the medium of play. Often children do not tell us directly how they are doing and feeling, they show us. We help children by safely re-enacting with them through creative play and by the use of the imagination parts of their lives that are problematic. We help children recognize their feelings without judgment, and help them develop a tool box of skills to become responsive to their feelings rather than reactive. Many times children are able to recognize their feelings through the use of play, and then find that they have choice in how to respond to their feelings, also through play therapy. Not only are they having fun, but they are discovering new ways of viewing their lives.

More about Group Therapy

Group therapy for pre-teens, teens, and young adults meets on a weekly basis at the same time each week. We ask that all group members make a commitment to group. This was actually decided by the group members themselves, they did not want a drop in group.

Our groups are intimate gatherings where members feel safe to discuss with one another topics close to their hearts. Group has proven to be a validating experience where those in attendance feel understood and learn how to effectively support and empathize with other group members.

At times we do work on special projects within our group. Some of these projects are done in one meeting, others last for three months culminating in a what we call a “passage”. Group facilitates abilities in members to be emotionally available to other members and gain awareness about their own individual needs in group. Becoming vocal about one’s needs and becoming interdependent forms a family-like group. The skills that group members attain inside group are carried over outside of group. All of our groups are drug free, violent free, and welcoming.

Parenting Group is a support group, educating parents in interpersonal neurobiology and “attachment theory”. Parenting groups are usually limited to 7 parents. The group runs for 10 weeks. Parents participating in Parenting Group usually have children of all ages, with varying issues that parents are wanting to address. Parents are eager to share their stories about parenting their own children as well as about how they themselves were parented. By the end of the 10 weeks a bond has been formed between group members. I have found that group members often give one another positive feedback and observation. Many couples and co-parents come to this group together.

What is Somatic Psychology?

The mind is like the wind and the body like the sand. If you want to know how the wind is blowing look at patterns that the wind makes in the sand.

Somatic psychotherapy is an approach that recognizes the relationship between the body (soma) and the mind (psyche), and between humans and their environments. Just as patterns of the wind are reflected in the sand, the effects of thoughts, emotions, life experiences, and life interactions are reflected in physical patterns in our bodies. Experiences influence and shape these patterns, even on a cellular level. This is called cellular memory.

Cellular memory is made up of subtle bundles of “info-energy”. This “info-energy” is comprised of physical, mental and emotional data that comes from all of your life experiences, genetic heritage, and past generations. As Candace Pert, Ph.D writes, “Nothing we experience escapes being imprinted into our Cellular Hologram in the form of a cell memory. What we commonly refer to “The Cellular Memory” is the collective energy field generated by these individual cell memories. It operates behind the scenes of our subconscious mind.”

The work as a therapist is to support you in becoming aware of how your emotions, stress, experiences and thought patterns are carried into the body. A therapist is in service to the release of cell memory as well as body patterns.

The body in its posture, movements, and language helps us express ourselves. As therapists we also work with those who come to see us through the awareness of what the body is saying in its patterns of communication. As therapists we can empower our clients through awareness of the language of the body.

Thus, to me, somatic work entails awareness and working with techniques in therapy to address areas of the body that are holding emotions or life events, cellular memory, and the communication of body language.

What is "Mindfulness Psychotherapy"?

Mindfulness (Pali sati) is the focusing of attention and awareness, based on the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation, but is defined in many ways. Mindfulness has become popular in the West with no inherent religious ties.

Modern clinical psychology and psychiatry have developed a number of therapeutic applications of mindfulness since the 1960’s. The research on the application of mindfulness practices has been very promising. Research suggests that mindfulness practices are useful in the treatment of pain, stress, anxiety, depression, eating issues, addiction, trauma, as well as other issues we see in psychotherapy. There are also studies looking at the benefits of mindfulness for those who are not seeking relief from conditions associated with suffering or psychotherapy.

Several definitions of “mindfulness” have been used in modern psychology. Mindfulness refers to a psychological quality that involves:

  • Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.
  • Or involves paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.
  • Or involves a kind of non-elaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that rises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is.

The first component of mindfulness involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance. Bishop, Lau, and colleagues (2004)

In these two ways, first self-regulated attention involves conscious awareness of one’s current thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. Secondly, is acceptance of one’s mindstream, maintaining openness and curiosity in attitude.

By redirecting attention, rather then trying to control or suppress intense emotions we can regulate how we feel. We remember to be mindful. We can do this no matter what we are doing, eating, walking, talking. Remembering is what develops a new sense of who we are.

These qualities include non-judgment, acceptance, and compassion.

It is amazing how much of our lives are lived mindlessly. Mindfulness can be cultivated. It is mind training just as physical exercise is training for the body. We develop mindfulness through deliberate mental practice. There are many different psychotherapy techniques that embrace mindfulness. Marsha Linehan, who developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy had a personal interest in integrating Zen Buddhism principles and techniques with clinical traditions. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is another example of a blending of mindfulness and clinical treatment.

Daniel Siegel, MD internationally known neurobiologist in his book, “The Mindful Brain” writes about the benefits of mindfulness to one’s well being. Daniel Goleman, MD author of “Emotional Intelligence” and “Social Intelligence” writes about mindfulness.

Mindfulness not only touches your life, but touches the lives around you as you become more aware of yourself in the moment, and accepting and compassionate of yourself. You will be more accepting and compassionate towards others. This might not be your immediate concern, but it does end up being a by product of the practice of mindfulness.

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